Introducing… a clinical specialist radiation therapist
Michele Cardoso is a clinical specialist radiation therapist at Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC). She has worked at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) for 15 years.
Favourite colour: green /book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Eats, Shoots and leaves by Lynn Truss /vacation spot: anywhere by the ocean with a nice sandy beach /music: anything you can dance to /animal: tortoise /food: steak and kidney pie /holiday: Christmas
Tell us about your first day at HHS. My first day at the cancer centre was as a student. I had a placement on Cobalt B, one of the old radiation therapy machines. It was overwhelming to see the impact and clinical manifestations of different types of cancer, but I was amazed by how the radiation therapists put all the patients at ease with their caring and professional approach and that they saw beyond the disease to the person they were caring for. I wanted to do that too! My first day as an employee was ironically back on Cobalt B again. I felt the full weight of the responsibility of administering megavoltage radiation to patients and I was thankful to work with my good friend Emilia Timotin; we found our way together!
What made you enter your field of work? I knew that I wanted to be a health care professional but I hadn’t even heard of radiation therapy until a friend encouraged me to apply to the Hamilton School of Radiation Therapy at the JCC (which was then the Hamilton Regional Cancer Centre). What an eye opener to come into this other world where is the norm! I am so proud to have the privilege to make a difference in the lives of patients. As the breast CSRT, I have motivating and challenging work that completely engages me. My friend was right all those years ago-this is the right profession for me!
“We can’t control everything but we can at least control that.”
Describe one of your most challenging days at work. When I was the pediatric radiation therapist, there were some very tough days. One that was especially difficult was when an 8-year old patient that braved almost the entire course of treatment passed away. I always focus on the best outcome, even when things look bleak and it was hard to reconcile that this could happen when we all cared so much and had tried so hard. This only made me more determined than ever to treat everyone with as much love and respect as possible, and to really connect and be present with each patient. We can’t control everything but we can at least control that.
Do you have a best friend or confidant at HHS? I have very close friends that have been tremendous supports to me over the years. We have wonderful camaraderie in radiation therapy, but I have also made great friends in just about every corner of the cancer centre, that work in every department doing every kind of job. We have the best people working here so I have quite a few ‘best friends’.
I also have many very special friends that I have made through volunteering with the BRIGHT Run to raise money for breast cancer research in Hamilton. This year is our 10th anniversary so I hope to see as many HHS people there on September 9th as possible!!
What do you do after work to unwind? I spend time with my children. But the best time is after they go to bed, when my husband and I sit with a cup of tea and cookies.
What do you eat to keep you energized at work? I am usually in full swing at work but if ever I need a boost, then it is the ‘Rise and Shine’ breakfast from Nora’s Cafe (no offence to my friends at the Hummingbird cafe). There is always an abundance of chocolate around the department too!
“it is about valuing the dignity of others.”
When you tell people what you do, how do they usually react? They usually look sorry for me and say “Oh that must be so depressing”. But I tell them it isn’t like that at all and that we see the best part of the human spirit; people coming in here have shed the small stuff and know what is really important in life.
Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS. Most of the gratifying experiences I have had at HHS have involved turning difficult situations around for patients. But I will say that recently winning the Pat Mandy Inclusion award was humbling and gratifying as it is about valuing the dignity of others. What made it that much more meaningful to me (other than meeting Pat Mandy herself) was that it gave me a chance to honour my parents. My Dad was there at the ceremony and I was able to thank him and credit him for raising me with the values of respect, caring, equity, inclusivity, cultural competence, and because he never taught me how to say “no”, volunteering.